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The Dundee to Newtyle Railway

The Webmaster recalls the saying "Today's headlines - next week's chip wrappers" and believes the original version of this article is an exception.
It first appeared in the Dundee Courier - Supplement - on Saturday 31st January 2015.
It is reproduced here with the kind permission of "The Courier".
Some added text and pictures are shown)

Copies of the original pages appear HERE in Adobe Reader (PDF) format with a few added photographs..
Dundee to Newtyle Railway-Courier 1.pdf  -  Dundee to Newtyle Railway-Courier 2.pdf
Dundee to Newtyle Railway-Courier 3.pdf  - Dundee to Newtyle Railway-Courier 4.pdf

A Grand Plan That Went Off The Rails

It is 60 years since passenger trains were withdrawn from the Dundee and Newtyle Railway.
Courier writer, Gayle Ritchie, finds out what happened to one of the first railways in Scotland.  

A RAILWAY CARRIAGE propelled by a sail hoisted aloft on a pole. To those of us rather more au fait with the high-speed, mega-powered trains of the 21st century, it seems almost unthinkable. Yet in 1831 it was ingenious.

 The brain behind the sail-driven train was William Whitelaw, the man in charge of the horse which took up haulage if the wind failed or was in the wrong direction. He made the sail out of a canvas wagon sheet and attached it to a stick on top of the carriage to speed things up to around 20mph and lighten the strain on the horse. However, the locomotive engine, made two years after the Dundee and Newtyle Railway opened in 1831, took the wind out of William's sails.

A postcard of the"First Railway Engine in Scotland 1833. Dundee & Newtyle Railway"

 With the introduction of railways in the first half of the 19th century, small lines had sprung up all over the U.K. Their main purpose was usually the transportation of coal to nearby towns or industrial areas. The Dundee and Newtyle Railway Company was formed in 1826 and in the following years tenders were invited for engineering works. It was the first railway to be built in the north of Scotland and the first not to rely on coalfields for the bulk of its traffic.

 "It was a link between the manufacturing, industrial city of Dundee and the agricultural hinterland of Strathmore," says railway enthusiast and keen historian Dr. David Martin. "Using horse and cart to deliver goods by road took too long. The city was rapidly expanding with jute mills on the rise and rail was a cost-effective way of getting goods like coal and lime in to Strathmore and agricultural produce back out. However, passengers soon provided the majority of the income."

Dundee to Newtyle Railway - Ward Road Station.  



Dundee to Newtyle Railway - Ward Road Station.

Dundee to Newtyle Railway, Ward Road Station. It appears to be the original photo on the left and an "edited" version on right. The railway incline climbed up to the right (east side) of the Dundee Royal Infirmary (seen on hill) and under the eastern flank of the Dundee Law, the long-extinct volcano, on the horizon.

 The line terminated at Newtyle which, at that time, was little more than a mill and a few houses, unlike Forfar or larger Strathmore towns.

 It was built with a 4 feet 6˝ inches gauge, there being no accepted standard gauge at that time - and this led to problems connecting it with later lines coming in from Perth and Arbroath, which were different gauges. 

The Dundee and Newtyle Railway had several unusual features in its journey across the considerable heights of the Sidlaws. Rather than going round them, engineer Charles Landale decided on a policy of  'up and over', and this resulted in three inclines; at the Dundee Law, Balbeuchly and at Hatton. The inclines were worked by stationary steam engines while coaches and wagons were pulled by horses over level stretches of line. Later, steam locomotives - the first in Scotland - were used, although horses provided back-up if they broke down.

 The construction of the railway was complicated by the decision to build a tunnel through Dundee Law, which was finally completed in 1829, allowing the 11-mile line to open to traffic on 16th December, 1831 .  

An extract from the Dundee Courier at the time stated, "The Railway betwixt this town and Newtyle has at length been opened. On Friday last (16th) carriages started for the first time for the conveyance of goods and passengers. The distance from Newtyle to the temporary place of starting (it would later move from Dundee 's Ward Road to the harbour) is nearly 11 miles, and was gone over in about an hour-and-a-quarter, conveying along with it about 40 passengers.  

Lochee Station c.1960s- looking west (DMU superimposed!)
Lochee Station in 1890s
Current entrance to former Lochee Station, Now Dundee Burns Club (01382 611101
Trams pass under bridge at Logie Street/High Street. Whorterbank on left, Old Muirton Road on right.
Lochee West Station, looking east. Elmwood Road Crossing.
Lochee West Station, looking west from Elmwood Road Crossing.
Lochee West Station and Elmwood Road Crossing in colour.
Lochee West Station, looking north, down Elmwood Road to South Road. (POI noted)
Locomotive64546 approaching Lochee West Station  17 Aug 1957
Locomotive 64546 approaching Lochee West Station, heading east-17 Aug 1957

 "For years, Lochee station would have been a hive of activity as workers from nearby Camperdown Works, owned by the Cox family and for a time the world's largest jute works, employed around 5,000 people at its height in the early 1900s. Its brick chimney, Cox's Stack, at nearly 300ft, can still be seen from the station site.

Camperdown Works, Lochee, Dundee.
Camperdown Works, Lochee.

With the decline of the jute industry, many of the goods that the railway was carrying disappeared. Despite this, it managed to survive for more than 130 years.

 "The end of the Second World War signalled the writing on the wall for small branch lines," Dr. Martin, a lecturer in Life Sciences at Dundee University , explains, "As motor transport developed and roads improved the need for rail in certain areas decreased. Mobility was changing and by the mid-1950s, the Dundee to Newtyle Railway was no longer economical."  

"The Miley", a pathway on the old railtrack bed, under Harefield Road.

  IN SEPTEMBER 1833, two steam locomotives, the Earl of Airlie and the Lord Whamcliffe, replaced the horses and made their first trip on the line. Built in Dundee by James and George Carmichael, the locomotives were the first to run in Scotland . The brothers became widely known for their genius as engineers and helped to cement Dundee 's reputation as an engineering centre.

 In 1834, a third locomotive was acquired, the Trotter. Its derailment at Pitpointie on 15th June, 1834 , resulted in the death of John Anderson, the miller at Auchterhouse.

 In April 1836, a fourth engine known as John Bull, from the great locomotive works of Robert Stephenson & Co, was bought. Three or four passenger trains ran each way daily, according to season. By 1835 there were reduced fares -`workmen's tickets' - for sheep-shearers.

 Goods transported included cinders, hay, iron, flax, coal, lime, potatoes, grain, manure, stone and slate, as well as ale, silks and gold plate.

 "The landscape of the country changed in the early 20th century and while there were fields in Strathmore, there were also bone grinding and linoleum factories and quarries," says Dr Martin. "Now you'll see sheep grazing - it's a case of industrial reclamation - things reverted back to nature."

 In 1846, the railway was saved from bankruptcy by being leased to the Dundee and Perth Railway. Standard gauge track (4 feet 8˝ inches) was adopted in 1849 and during the 1860s deviation lines (to the west and north of Dundee, via Liff and other places and stations) were opened to avoid the three inclines which fell into disuse.

Liff Station 1910

 The line was absorbed by the Scottish Central Railway Company in 1863, which in turn was taken over by the giant Caledonian Railway Company in 1865.  

Newtyle Station 1950
Newtyle Station 1950.
The Remains of Newtyle Station.
The Remains of Newtyle Station.

 The line was extended in 1861 from Newtyle to Meigle to join the Scottish Central Railway running from Perth through Coupar Angus and Forfar to Aberdeen . Branch lines connected Alyth (from Meigle at the Alyth Junction) and Blairgowrie (from Coupar Angus). This train transported soft fruit grown locally, to Covent Garden in London.  

Near Auchterhouse Train in snow early 1947.-C-DCT
Near Auchterhouse Train in snow early 1947.

 During the Great Freeze in 1947, a passenger train was snowed-in for over a week near Auchterhouse. In his book, “The Dundee and Newtyle Railway”, Niall Ferguson (ISBN-13: 978-0853614760) recalled: "Passengers made their way to the village where they were put up in various houses including Auchterhouse Smiddy, where five schoolboys on their way home from Dundee spent the night before finishing their journey home to Newtyle on foot through the snow"

 Born in 1929, Tayport resident Reg Mulheron has fond memories of a train trip from Dundee to Blairgowrie: "As a small boy I remember going there on a day trip with my father. The train went through Lochee and branched off to Blairgowrie at Newtyle. I was so excited and the carriage was full. It travelled through parts of Dundee you wouldn't believe existed and I looked out the window at the country scenery in awe. When we got to Blairgowrie, we walked about and had a cup of tea.'"

 On 17th July, 1948, the Crewe-built Swiftsure was hauling the Aberdeen to Glasgow express, consisting of four postal sorting vans and seven passenger coaches. As it thundered past Meigle towards Ardler Junction, where two lines gradually converged, the crew were unaware that the smaller and slower Dundee to Newtyle train was approaching the same stretch of track, also west bound.

Rail Crash at Ardler Junction near Coupar Angus.

 For it to have been allowed on to the main line was a catastrophic error. As the two trains came together, the 321-ton express smashed into the trundling tank engine. The Swiftsure was spun like a toy and its coaches piled headlong into fields. The first few carriages, unmanned, were reduced to splintered wood and twisted steel. The Dundee tank engine was launched along the tracks and landed with its wheels in the air.

 Express driver David Nutt had been thrown clear and went searching for his crew-mate - but fireman James Smith was trapped beneath the tender and grievously injured. He died in the Dundee Royal Infirmary that night. Meanwhile, in the cab of the tank engine, fireman Robert Nixon lay stricken with a smashed leg and driver John Laing had been hurled against the controls. He, too, died later in the D.R.I., while Nixon lost his leg.  

Robbie Anderson level crossing keeper.
Robbie Anderson level crossing keeper.

 Following damage caused by the Second World War, in 1948 the UK 's railways were nationalised, and the line became part of British Railways. It survived for seven years, with passenger services withdrawn on 10th January ,1955 . Freight services continued, but the Auchterhouse-Newtyle section closed in 1958, and the remaining route to Dundee ceased operation on 5th April, 1965.

 FOR 30 years, the Dundee to Newtyle Railway ran through the Law Tunnel, a 330-yard cut through the 570ft extinct volcano that towers over Dundee . It closed in 1861 when the line deviated via Lochee. "It was uneconomic and time-consuming to operate, and locomotive power was now available," says Dr Martin.

 The tunnel was re-opened by the Scottish Mushroom Company for growing purposes in 1898, but the company went into liquidation in 1902. Five years later, botanist Sir Patrick Geddes, a pioneer of the Green movement and modem town planning, drew up plans for the tunnel as a fernery, along with elaborate plans for the surrounding area.

 It was converted into an air-raid shelter during the Second World War before its entrances at Kinghorne Road and Keats Place were blocked off in 1983.


Pictured (clockwise from right) are relics of the old railway: the former Newtyle Station; the “Miley” at Harefield Road in Dundee ; Lochee Station. Pictures: Dougie Nicolson. 

Added Information

The Dundee and Newtyle Railway: A Talk by Dr David Martin, takes (took) place on 19th February 2015 at 7pm at Discovery Point, Dundee. His free talk will cover (covered) the history of the railway and how it helped the development of industry around  Dundee. 

Donations to upgrade Newtyle Path Network can be made at the Post Office or the Commercial Hotel, Newtyle, or by post to D. Treffry, 20 South Street, Newtyle PH12 8UQ.

Ron Watt's video about the Dundee and Newtyle Railway can be viewed at

 Artist Deirdre Robertson is campaigning to have the Law Tunnel re-opened as a tourist attraction and local historian Ron Watt's film about the railway picked up steam after being launched online in November, 2014.

 "I'd like to see the tunnel re-opened but it could be dangerous," says Mr. Watt (82). "I played there as a child - we'd climb into the tunnel, or as far into as we could before we got scared."

 Elliott Simpson (69) has fond memories of exploring the tunnel in the 1960s. "The entrance was covered with rubble but over the years, rain had uncovered the top of the arch," he says. "We could feel a draught coming through one end and there was a gap large enough to slither down into it. One of the lads who came in with me had a Tilley lamp so we could see. It was so exciting."

 Following this adventure, when the northern end of the tunnel was excavated in the 1980s, Elliott took photos of surveying. He put them and other pictures he'd taken of features along the line online in an attempt to create an archive of Dundee 's early railway history.

 In Dundee , Cross Roads Station survives as a small cottage with a space for a clock over the door. In Newtyle, the old station survives, and along the lines remains various cuttings, embankments and signal houses.

 Much of the line is seeing a new lease of life as walking and cycling routes -the Newtyle Path Network, Sidlaw Path Network and Dundee 's Green Circular. The landscape along the routes is packed with historical interest; its hills, burns, cottages and farmsteads, dykes and ditches, woods, factories, monuments, castles, echo the past.

 Maintaining the pathways which meander past these fascinating features comes at a cost. "Paths need to be resurfaced, ditches cleaned and water courses kept clear," says Newtyle Path Network member (and Courier columnist) Dudley Treffry. "And linking with other projects around Strathmore will incur further expenditure.

 "We're hoping to raise the line's profile, making the old turntable in Newtyle into a landscaped feature and providing information boards and seating." Evidently, much has changed since the line opened almost two centuries ago, but it hasn't been abandoned to weeds and dereliction; people really care enough about this part of their heritage to want it to continue to play a role in their future.

 "The Dundee and Newtyle railway was instrumental in the development of modem Dundee ," Dr. Martin concludes. "Even though trains no longer run, it won't be forgotten. It's a key part of Dundee life for transport, leisure and culture."


In response to the article above the following submission was made by a reader of the "Craigie" feature in The Courier.

Drama at Dronley
"THE PICTURE of a snowed-in train shown in Saturday's Courier Weekend reminded me of a piece I wrote for
Auchterhouse Community Council some years ago," says John Brush of Auchterhouse.

 "Much of the information was given to me by the late Bill Skelly, who witnessed the clearing of the snow at Auchterhouse station."

 The article states, “It is well known that a passenger train going from Dundee to Newtyle became snowed in at Dronley cutting, about a mile south of Auchterhouse Station. It remained there for over a one week, and, according to Bill Skelly, a large squad of men was required to dig it out. During this period the coal on the engine was stolen by locals, and more had to be sent for to get the engine going again.

 “Of course, that was at a time of severe rationing, and all the roads were completely blocked, so it is not surprising that some coal disappeared! At the same time, it was necessary to clear the rest of the line from Auchterhouse to Newtyle. According to Mr. Skelly, the snow under the bridge at Auchterhouse Station was within afoot of the top of the bridge, and it would have been a mammoth task to dig it and the station out, so large were the drifts.

 “The decision was taken to send a pair of large locomotives from the Newtyle end, together with a large snowplough attached. These engines managed to get to some distance from the station, but the drivers realised that they would need to get up some speed before tackling the drifts. The station staff warned everyone to stand well clear, and the engines, together with snowplough reversed back along Pitnappie Moss and then charged. The sight of this going through the station was one which Bill says he will never forget. 'After the engines had passed through, there was hardly a whole pane of glass left in the station buildings and the signal box, and all the doors were smashed, so great was the force caused by the snow being displaced by the speeding locomotives. It took over a week to repair the damage caused, but at least the line was open again.

 The Dundee Courier logo and hyperlink.

You may also wish to read about the Dundee to Forfar Railway line on this website.
There is a considerable amount of information that can be found online regarding these historic railways.


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This page was updated - 16 March, 2015